BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Now, a rare look at a dying phenomenon: the tent revival, where religious fervor seems to be encouraged by the open air.
Tent, or camp, revivals have been important social and religious traditions throughout American history, especially in the rural South. Producer David Bernknopf went to the Rock Springs campground in northwest Georgia, where they’ve been having camp meetings since 1887.
BETTY ROSS: I love the spirit that’s here. People just seem to be a different person when they’re here. I don’t know what it is.
WALLACE SUTTON: I’ve been coming to this campground ever since I was even big enough to remember. People used to come here and bring their cows — tie them out around here. They’d milk the cows here on the property.
EMMA ALLEN: Hey! How you doing? How are you doing there?
Unidentified Woman: It’s going to be a glorious day.
Ms. ALLEN: You know when you get together and have a good time in the Lord — what a time, what a time.
Unidentified Man #2 (Singing): No more bill collectors knocking at our door.
Reverend RANDY MINCEY (Presiding Pastor): It’s good to be able to see where we were and where we’ve come from. So this camp meeting is an opportunity for us to go back and reflect. That’s why I have this attire on today, just to go back and reflect on some of the hard times.
Congregation (Singing): Don’t visit heaven. Don’t cry against glory. Tell them we’ll be happy. Don’t you see? And there will be — don’t hang that sorrow. No more worrying about tomorrow.
Reverend FRANKLIN WINTERS (St. John Baptist Church, Cleveland, Georgia, preaching): The church is going to be raptured in a few more years. I don’t know the day, I don’t know the hour. I don’t want to know. But one thing I do want to know — I want to be ready when I’m in heaven. I want to be ready to go home with the Lord.
You’ve got to live the life that you talk about — the life that you sing about — Jesus is my Lord. And if he’s really your Lord, you will make it in.
Rev. MINCEY (preaching): Somebody need to know the Lord today. Somebody needs to feel God right now.
Unidentified Woman #2: It’s like a family reunion to us. Baby, we just enjoyed your preaching. You did a wonderful job, and you say give flower power, but we want to thank you for that message that you brought to us today.
Congregation (Singing): I still have joy.
GLORIA SUTTON (Campground Committee) (Singing): We say that we have glory. I still have joy.
ALASKER JAMES: Whoa, yeah. Whoa! Whoa, whoa. It’s joy. It is just so much joy. It just thrills your body. It just give you a new release in life and the spirit — when the spirit comes to you, you know the Lord God Almighty is looking down upon you.
Ms. SUTTON: There is a special feeling here, and I would say that it is because of the open air that there’s a freedom, there’s a freedom of spirit, you know. We’ve got so traditionalized in the churches and so programmed until — there’s no program to this. You move according to the spirit of God. And you just let Him have his way.
You feel it when you come on the ground. There’s a peace, there’s a serenity, you know, that man can’t give. You can’t buy, you know, and God can give it.
Congregation (Singing): Goodness and glory, hallelujah since I left my burden down.
Reverend LARRY DEAVERS (Mount Zion Baptist Church, Oakwood, Georgia, preaching): The message today, hold on in spite of. The Lord is looking for dedicated Christians. He’s looking for Christians who will stand for right when all others are wrong. I come to tell you to hold on in spite of. Hold on in spite of the dark days. Hold on. I know you get tired sometimes, but hold on. I know it, you get tired. But hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Oh, Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you.
Congregation (Singing): Oh, Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you. Oh, Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you. Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you. Oh, Satan, whoa, the blood of Jesus is against you. Oh, Satan. Oh, Satan, the blood of Jesus is against. I know the blood of Jesus is against you right now.